The Knife of Betrayal
Jeff A. Hatch — 60 Crescent Lane, Novato CA 94947, USA
This short scenario is a murder mystery set in T.A. 1450 in the small Arthadan town of Rood, which lies on the road between Fornost and Annúminas. The player-characters may be either residents of the town or merely passers-by (perhaps stopping there on the way to explore the nearby ruins of Annúminas).
The action is precipitated by a bar-fight in which the characters make an acquaintance of another visitor in town who seeks to recruit able-bodied mercenaries for war in a distant land. But before the characters are given pause to consider the offer, their newfound comrade is arrested by the local sheriff and falsely accused of a murder that has just been committed in town. Characters who choose to investigate the killing have an opportunity of clearing the name of the innocent and endearing themselves to a potential future employer
The town of Rood is home to Lord Dunhil and Lady Tiraloth of House Eketta, the second most powerful of the seven chief noble houses of Arthedain. At their sumptuous residence Dunhil and Tiraloth hold frequent parties and balls — celebrating nothing, but disguising the fact that they are not on good terms. Tiraloth is actually in love with Ciramond, the Captain of the Guard. The two have secret meetings and muse of a time when they might sow the seeds of forbidden love.
The unscrupulous and thoroughly depraved Ciramond restlessly awaits an opportunity to do away with his master. He finds just such an opportunity when one of his soldiers inadvertently obtains a dagger belonging to a rowdy stranger passing through town. Anticipating the blame to fall upon the owner of the blade, Ciramond murders Lord Dunhil with the dagger.
With his lord dead and the scapegoat on his way to the gallows, Ciramond believes that he and Tiraloth will at last be able to realize their desire for one another. But things are not so secure as they might appear to Ciramond, for the youth accused of Lord Dunhil’s murder may yet be proven innocent. The murder weapon might be traced to him — it did not leave its owner’s hand wholly unnoticed. And Tirabeth, Lord Dunhil’s young daughter, though she is not sure what happens, knows that there is something wrong with the relationship of her mother and Ciramond.
A chance meeting
While the characters are staying at one of Rood’s taverns — if they are real adventurers, they will hang out in a tavern — they encounter a loud, abusive ruffian named Maglar, who is so huge that no one ever opposes him. This Maglar will start a fight with one or all of the characters (being confident that he can take them on). The town Guard is unavailable at the time or is unable to get there before the bout is all over (Nevertheless, it will be important that they do stop in before the end of the evening.).
While Maglar is mopping up the floor with the character(s), there will be an intervention in the form of a silvery knife that thuds suddenly into the wall next to Maglar. A second missile pins the ruffian’s arm to the same wall, and from a nearby chair is heard a youthful but forceful voice: “One more move, my large friend, and your wife will be sorely disappointed at the loss of your — shall I say, weapon?”
As the crowd laughs, the characters turn to find that the speaker is a boy of maybe eighteen, dressed in leathers, with a short, hooded cloak drawn over his head to shade his eyes. In his sinewy hand a third knife is poised for throwing. A gleam of pleasure crosses the lad’s smile. Something about the way he holds himself gives the impression that he has a courage that few men of the day possess.
As the boy meets Maglar’s resentful gaze, the huge ruffian leaves, holding his head down (and grabbing the knife out of the wall, but nobody should at first notice this). The young warrior immediately raises his cup and offers drinks on the house, not wanting to spoil the mood of the tavern. If they do not approach him, the youth will approach the characters himself, admiring whatever they managed to do to the ruffian before he intervened.
An unlikely job offer
The boy introduces himself as Ekelar and lets out that his business in Rood is to recruit mercenaries for an unbeatable army which his lord (whom he will, for the moment, refer to as “Morfang”) is now gathering. Ekelar offers them employment: the pay is very good, the treatment fair, and there will be glory and adventure to be had. Should any of the characters express further interest in the boy’s proposition, it will be explained to them that Morfang is Lord of Tûl Póac in Far Harad (a place of which the vast majority of Northwestern Middle-earth have never even heard) and that he wages war against Lord Morlaen of Umbar (one of the chief architects of the recently concluded Kin-strife of Gondor, now a prominent Corsair leader).
Most characters should (at least initially) be taken aback by so far-fetched sounding a tale. Haradwaith is on the edge of the world as far as the inhabitants of Rood — and indeed of all Eriador — are concerned, wherever this Tûl Póac might be. The name of Morlaen, however, may well be known by characters who have been to Tharbad of late, since the newly independent lordship of Umbar has retained diplomatic ties with King Araphor of Arthedain (what characters may feel about Umbar or the Corsairs will, of course, depend upon their view of the Kin-strife itself).
But perhaps the most vexing question for the townspeople and sojourners alike in Rood is why on earth some obscure warlord of Haradwaith has ventured to send as far north as Eriador in search of mercenaries to fight his wars for him. If pressed on this point, Ekelar will hint that his lord knows well from personal experience of the valor and prowess of the men of Arthedain, who have lived in the shadow of Angmar for more than a hundred years. Ekelar may also add that Morfang once rendered service to the noble House Eketta, and that he has nothing but praise for the trustworthiness of the folk in that region. This last detail may cause a mixed reaction, depending on how the characters are disposed towards House Eketta, which has many enemies among the other noble families of Arthedain).
Such an explanation may or may not satisfy the curiosity of the characters (but it will, at any rate, provide them with a distraction to ponder while the murder of Lord Dunhil takes place). Despite his enthusiasm for his lord and his mission, Ekelar is actually quite cautious about giving out information to strangers unless he feels that he can trust them. The boy is actually at the tail-end of his search for mercenaries, and intends to leave for Tharbad the following day with any who choose to accompany him. Ekelar is spending the night at The King’s Board inn (#29).
The murder and the arrest
When Ciramond learns of the encounter between Maglar and Ekelar in the tavern that evening, he will order the Guard to bring the defeated ruffian into his presence. Then, in private, for a handful of silver and no questions asked, the Captain will relieve Maglar of Ekelar’s knife which he stormed out of the tavern with earlier that day. After dismissing the ruffian, Ciramond steals into his master’s house.
He finds Tiraloth, assuring his mistress that they shall be rid of her husband once and for all before the night is over. From her Ciramond learns that Dunhil is alone outside on the manor grounds, taking his evening stroll beside the fountain. There Ciramond finds him, and fatally stabs his lord in the back with Ekelar’s silver knife, leaving his corpse floating in the now crimson waters of the fountain. Before returning to the Guard House, the murderous Ciramond instructs Tiraloth to wait one hour, and then to call for the servants to summon her husband from the garden.
The murder is discovered, and Ciramond reappears at the manor with his men to haul Dunhil’s dead body out of the fountain. Once the murder weapon has been identified, Lady Tiraloth, feigning distress, persuades Ciramond to apprehend this dagger-touting Ekelar at once. Ciramond summons Calimir the Sheriff, and explains the situation to him. Calimir goes to The Kings Board and attempts to arrest the boy, but Ekelar resists, injuring one of Calimir’s men as he uses the guard’s body to smash his way through a second-story window to a hay wagon below. But Calimir’s archers, positioned outside the inn for just such an eventuality, compel the boy to surrender.
The morning after
Should they sleep through all the events of the night, the characters will nevertheless hear of what happened the next morning. Ekelar is being held in a cell at the Guard House (#9) until his hanging two days hence. If the characters do not seek him out, Ekelar will by some means send word to them that he is innocent and that he needs their help to clear his name before his imminent execution, promising them a hefty reward of silver and honor from his lord, even if they decline the offer to be his mercenaries. The favor of such a powerful warlord, he claims, would be a great reward indeed.
Ekelar rightly believes that he has been framed by someone for the murder. Although he has no way of proving this, Ekelar will inform the characters that his knife went missing the day before in the tavern where they first met. The Sheriff, on the other hand, is convinced that the boy is guilty (though he admits that Ekelar drew no blades on his own men while resisting arrest). Calimir will instruct the characters to stay out of trouble, but they are free to help their friend if they wish so long as the Sheriff is informed of anything they may discover.
- The owner of The Kings Board saw Ekelar go up to his room at two in the morning, and did not come down in the night. The innkeeper will go into a long story about how he is a light sleeper, and would have heard the boy in the hallway (especially since Ekelar’s room was right next to his own).
- The characters might think to ask some of the young people who hang around the hedge at night if they saw anything, but most of them would have gone home before the murder took place.
- Should the characters make a good impression on him, a certain owner of a local warehouse (#25) who does most of his errands in the dead of night might vouch for the whereabouts of Ekelar. He may even know some other detail, because he is in the habit of watching people (for which reason people get “the creeps” from him).
- Maglar will be watched by one of Ciramond’s loyal men to see if the ruffian does anything incriminating, in which case the guard has been instructed to bring him to Ciramond. Should Maglar talk to anyone strange or do anything suspicious, the Captain will promptly arrange his death.
- If the characters are really stuck, they might be able to meet Lord Dunhil’s daughter, Tirabeth, who saw the Captain and her mother kissing once.
There are several NPCs involved in the plot at this point. Below are listed the reactions that each might have towards the characters and their investigations. Each reaction is only a suggestion considering the overall plot, and is up to the judgment of the GM.
- If questioned about the murder, Maglar will state his innocence once. Should the characters persist in annoying him he will attempt to crush them into fish bait. Failing to do this will cause the big bully to flee. Maglar may or may not be aware that he is being watched by Ciramond’s men, but he is certainly indifferent to Dunhil’s murder, and wouldn’t mind seeing that young upstart hang.
- As a lady of House Eketta, Tiraloth does not have to answer to anyone, even though she is aware that Ciramond killed Dunhil. She will dismiss anyone that does not have a good story, but may behave nervously if she thinks they can prove anything. She is not experienced in this sort of “Cloak and Dagger” thing, and will be easily roused by a good story. Rather than spilling everything she will attempt to get away (in which case she will head off to Ciramond).
- The Captain of the Guard believes he has nothing to fear, being confident that Ekelar will hang for his crime. If accused of any crime, Ciramond will dismiss any but the most convincing evidence, at which point he will arrange for an “accident” to befall his accusers. Towards the end of the scenario (and if it can be done in a dramatic way) he will attempt flight or even combat. Ciramond has nightly visits in his quarters from the Lady Tiraloth, where they consummate their treacherous liaison, but he will have no contact with her now until Ekelar has been hung and the threat of suspicion removed.
- Dunhil’s youthful daughter loved her father quite a bit. She is easily swayed by exciting strangers and will show girlish enthusiasm at stories and gifts from characters who are from out of town. Tirabeth is wise enough to know that her mother will never be punished, but she despises Ciramond, and would like to see him go away.
- Knights of Eketta
- There is a chance that some of the Eketta household knights were more loyal to Lord Dunhil than to Ciramond, and so may help the characters. If not, they will surely report the characters’ investigations to Ciramond. At least one of the guard saw Ciramond buy the knife from Maglar.
- Servants of the Manor
- It is possible that one of the servants of the Eketta Manor may know something, but it is also possible that they are loyal to Captain Ciramond.
Ending the scenario
If the characters can prove anything about Ciramond’s guilt in the murder, the Sheriff will hold him until a representative from Bareketta can arrive to pass judgment on him and (possibly) on Tiraloth. If the characters just slay Ciramond, they will have to be able to prove that he was the original killer, or they themselves will face the justice of the clan.
Once freed, Ekelar will take his new friends to Tharbad and thence on a ship bound for the Far South, and see that they are suitably rewarded (but that is definitely another story). To spice up the plot a bit, it is possible that one of the neighboring clans might become involved in the investigation, as they almost all loathe the Eketta clan and would like to see them on the losing end.
The Town of Rood
At this time, Rood is still a town of some import, and goods pass through it from the north, bound for Bree. The buildings are somewhat less than majestic, but by no means run down. The following is a description of the town during the middle of the Third Age.
- 1 — The Battered Cock
- a large disreputable and airy inn. It has a corral for horses, all of which seem to have shed their fleas in or near the Inn. The inn gets its name from the animal fights that are encouraged and often sponsored by its owner, “Bill.”
- 2 — Lorn’s farmhouse
- Lorn’s family are, and will always be, sheep-herders. They are renowned for their love of sheep.
- 3 — Private residences
- 4 – 7 — Warehouses with docks
- filled with food and furs. The owners all wage an ongoing battle against the multitude or rats determined to make their homes here.
- 8 — Hedge and ditch
- This is a popular place for young lovers to go at night to watch the stars.
- 9 — Guard House
- Well-trained guards man this area. Although vigilant, they seldom have to draw their swords.
- 10 – 13 — Private residences
- 14 — Craft Shop and General Store
- run by the Rostars. They sell fine hand- made items and general supplies. They are host to a pair of strange people who appear to be Hobbits yet will not admit it. The Rostars are a very old couple, and seek to sell their business.
- 15 — The White Wolf
- the best that Rood has to offer. Travelers used to some sort of comfort and with a taste for good wine will find it here. The owner, Jonathan Burlibob, is a veteran of the war of 1409, and came across a great supply of wine following the decimation wrought on Cardolan by the Witch- king’s armies (His captain allowed him to keep it as a reward for saving his life.).
- 16 — The Sunset
- This inn is everything that The White Wolf is not. Only those too poor to afford any other inn will come here.
- 17 — Stables
- This place is run by Tobar, who is reputed to be the best horse-groomer in the region.
- 18 — The Black Smith
- Gramdrin, a huge Daen man, runs this smithy. He is loud and likes to tell stories that grow more and more outrageous each time.
- 19 — Smokehouse
- 20 — General Store
- Whoever can’t afford the crafts shop comes here.
- 21 — Riverman’s Emporium
- This shop sells supplies necessary for travel along the Baranduin.
- 22 — Distillery
- run by Janrivis, a burnt-out veteran of many wars, who now makes a moderate product for private sale.
- 23 — Abandoned warehouse
- 24 — Warehouse
- operated by Samuel, a man smart enough to know that the rats will go for the places on the docks first.
- 25 — Pig Farm
- run by the ill-reputed Farmer Ted.
- 26 — The Silver Tree
- the kind of inn that always has people who look like adventurers in it (If you are whispering, you will notice someone trying to hear what you say.). The Stigmuds are seeking a bouncer to control the daily bar-room brawls.
- 27 — Metal Shop
- Galdon the weapon smith sells fine weapons, and dreams of the day that he can marry and have a son to pass the family business down to. Females who enter his shop will receive a 25% discount and a proposition.
- 28 — Arms Shop
- The weapons sold here are so fine they couldn’t possibly come from the owner, a drunken former river man named Kevar. It is rumored that a young Dwarf makes deliveries here.
- 29 — The King’s Board
- This place is named for the time that the king of Arthedain stayed here, though everyone asked will name a different king and a different time. This is frequented by Rangers as a place of preference. There is room for twenty to stay here and at any time 1D10+10 will occupy the place. The prices for rooms are 50% higher here than in the other inns.
- 30 — Servants Quarters
- Workers from the King’s Board are lodged here.
- 31 — The House of Healing
- One healer lives here, whose name is Lisserven. Lisserven is low on healing herbs and has the money to pay for any he might receive.
- 32 — Apothecary Shop
- The place is manned by Woden, a former Ranger who studied with a loremaster at Minas Arnor. He seeks to make enough money to buy a shop in a larger town or to become the client of a lord.
- 33 — Eketta house
- This is a mansion of stately proportions, there are two floors of elegant art and antiques. The house is ruled by Lord Dunhil and Lady Tiraloth. The place is well protected by Knights trained at Bareketta the ruling house of the Eketta clan. The garrison here numbers ten.
- 34 — Stables
- 35 — Warehouse
- owned and operated by a horribly deformed man who only ventures out at night who is called “The Monster” by the young folks who visit “the hedge” nearby. He is in reality a gentleman and a poet, who was deformed by a fire long ago. He sees a great deal while he runs his errands at night and could be a vital friend to the characters. His name is Gibson.
- 36 — Bridge
- crosses a branch of the Baranduin.
- 37 — Storehouse
- currently used to store fowl.
NPC Profiles (RQ3 Stats)
Ekelar is a lad of medium height and build who is possessed of a great amount of youthful spirit and courage. He has black hair and blue eyes, wears leathers and usually keeps a hood over his head to disguise his features. He owes his life to his lord, Konar (cf. OH 2: 15 – 19; “Morfang” is a pseudonym), who found him wandering the Dagorlad (at the time he did not even remember his own name). Konar took the boy in and named him Ekelar, training him to fight and to take care of himself.
Ekelar will come across as something of a zealot (he seems to have a bit more courage than appropriate for a youth). This is due to the strange brainwashing techniques used on Konar’s men, which cause Ekelar to view himself as all but invincible. Because the boy is used to refinement he will start his search for mercenaries at the White Wolf, and then head to the Silver Tree.
The man called Konar has a wide reputation as a cutthroat, yet in person he is a likable man. He is in the service of Mûrabêth who rules in Umbar at this time. Konar is opposed by Morlaen, who has mustered an army and sent it to siege the fortress. Konar sent out Ekelar to gather mercenaries to repel the assault, and Ekelar does not have very long to do this so he sends men straight there from every town. He comes there with notes verifying their identities. Rood is one of Ekelar’s last stops, and he will probably stay with whatever group he assembles from Arthedain.
STR 13 CON 16 SIZ 13 INT 12
POW 10 DEX 20 APP 15 HP: 15
Skills: Climb 80%, Dodge 75%, Jump 80%, Ride 30%, Swim 60%, Throw 90%, Fast Talk 30%, Orate 50%, Speak Westron 40%, Rhovanion 35%, First Aid 50%, Human Lore 60%, Read Westron 15%, World Lore 30%, Conceal 50%, Devise 35%, Sleight 55%, Martial Arts: 75%,* Quick Draw Knife 80%,° Spot Weakness 50%,† Listen 60%, Scan 55%, Search 50%, Track 40%, Hide 50% Sneak 50%, Knife (Hand) 80%, Knife Thrown 99%, Fist 60%, Kick 55%, Grapple 65%, Broadsword 35%.
* This skill represents Ekelar’s chance to do something fancy with a knife (e.g., knock a weapon out of someone’s hand, hit a small target, or pin someone’s sleeve to the wall).
† This skill enables the user to pierce armor to a number of points equal to one tenth of the skill level (i.e.. Ekelar is able to circumvent 5 AP).
° This skill negates the penalty for changing (or drawing) weapons of SR 3 or less.
Equipment: leather armor with cuirbouilli reinforcement, silver knives inlaid with dragon carvings (+ 1 damage), standard traveling equipment, 100 silver pieces.
Maglar is a fairly evil and bigoted man of Dunadan blood who hates most everyone. He likes to pick bar-fights, but simply leaves the bar when he grows tired.
STR 18 CON 16 SIZ 18 INT 9
POW 9 DEX 13 APP 8 HP: 17
Skills: Dodge 30%. Throw 40%, Offend people 60%, Listen 40%, Sneak 35%, Push people around 55%, Fist 70%, Grapple 80%, Club 65%.
Equipment: padded armor, knife, 12 silver, weighted gloves (+2 damage).
Ciramond is well-respected as Captain of the Guard at the manor house. He is tall and slim of build, with black hair, and brown eyes. He is handsome, but has a cruel face.
Skills: Boat 35%, Climb 50%, Dodge 50%, Ride 45%, Swim 40%, Orate 45%, Speak Westron 50%, Speak Adûnaic 35%, Speak Sindarin 15%, First Aid 35%, Human Lore 30%, Read Adûnaic 30%, Read Westron 50%, World Lore 25%, Listen 40%, Scan 50%, Search 35%, Track 25%, Sneak 30%, Plot and Plan 35%, Bastard Sword 50%, Eket 45%, Long bow 45%, Knife 45%, Fist 45%, Shield 45%
Equipment: chainmail, eket, shield, bastard sword, 25 silver.
Eketta Household Knights
STR 16 CON 15 SIZ 15 INT 14
POW 12 DEX 16 APP 14 HP: 15
Skills: Boat 25%, Dodge 35%, Ride 35%, Swim 25%, Speak Westron 30%, Speak Adûnaic 15%, First Aid: 30%, Listen 35%, Scan 40%, Search 30%, Track 25%, Broad Sword 40%, Eket 45%, Knife 45%, Fist 45%
Equipment: ringmail, broadsword, eket, knife.
Calimir is a good and just man who only wishes to be of some use in his retirement He used to be a Ranger until a slight leg wound and increasing age persuaded him to slow down. He was appointed Sheriff in Rood two years ago, and the place has been relatively peaceful. He can’t, however, be in two places at once, and his men leave a lot to be desired as law enforcers.
He is tall and slim, with tough wiry muscles, that are corded like pieces of twine. He has gray hair and blue eyes, his voice is commanding yet not overpowering. At the end of the Kin-strife he performed a favor for Eldacar, and for that he was given a sword which Eldacar used in battle once. Calimir is proud of this and uses it as a symbol of leadership.
STR 15 CON 13 SIZ 15 INT 14
POW 12 DEX 14 APP 14 HP: 14
Skills: Boat 35%, Dodge 45%, Jump 35%, Speak Westron 40%, Speak Adûnaic 30%, First aid 45%, Human Lore 35%, Listen 45% Scan 50%, Search 45%, Track 75%, Hide 50%, Sneak 45%, Broad Sword 60%, Self Bow 45%, Dagger 50%, Fist 60%, Grapple 50%, Kick 40% Martial arts 30%
Equipment: broadsword used by Eldacar (+1 damage), knife, chainmail.
These men are the rabble assigned to Calimir. They are not smart enough to be thieves so they became soldiers. They try to get the job done, but are easily distracted.
STR 10 CON 10 SIZ 14 INT 9
POW 8 DEX 12 APP 9 HP: 12
Skills: Avoid Work 45%, Dodge 25%, Speak Westron 30%, Intimidate 45%, Scan 40%, Fist 45% Broad Sword 40%, Knife 45%, Self bow 45%
Equipment: ringmail, sword, knife, self bow (10 arrows), cards or dice.
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